Tomb Raider: The Little Things - Hijacked!
The Snarky Lesbian
"I like train levels so I was really looking forward to this one. For the most part, I really enjoyed myself exploring the luxurious carriage interiors and battling Venetian style henchmen, which made a change from ninjas. The gameplay is entertaining and having limited ammo gives an additional frisson to the whole affair. The only possible game stopping moment is an absolute beast of a timed run through a corridor full of murderous opening/closing doors. Could I achieve it? No of course not, so my poor long-suffering husband had to do it for a second time (he’d already played the level). If you like train levels and are really good at timed runs (or know someone who is) then I’d have no hesitation in recommending this." -
"This level might be the best train levels I have ever played, both in terms of gameplay and in terms of scope, partly because it isn't just TR4's train level with slightly different enemy spawn positions, but because it transforms the whole train-level concept by adding wagons with lots of interior areas to explore. The flow is also generally more interesting, by advancing the classic levels "go to end, then go back" to multiple acts of moving back and forth in a fairly interesting way.
The first thing that one notices when starting this level, and one thing that stays with you throughout the level, is the unbelievably high amount of custom objects found within the level and the high amount of detail put into decorating the interior areas of the train. It's both interesting to explore, as well as seeming real. Like everything has a believable structure, with only a really tiny amount of switches in weird places to open doors somewhere entirely different. For the most part, the immersion in this level absolutely unparalleled. Same goes for the weapons and enemies, all custom, all fitting the level's tone and era in history. Everyone wears suits and machine pistols, or dons sabres and robes. You really get some kind of "Raider's of the Lost Ark" vibe. The cream of the crop being the ambushes in which you find something important, and suddenly the train seems infiltrated by these guys, likely having spawned from the admittedly quite high tech looking helicopters.
In short: It works. Atmospherically it absolutely works and it is very commendable for that.
However, what is slightly less great, is how these elements interact with the general gameplay. The aforementioned wagons are still quite tight, so whenever you open the door of one of the room, be it to enter or to leave, those doors then stay open and make it very hard to pass through the corridor because they have collision and are kind of blocking the way. This becomes especially bad when these doors open next to little drawers in said corridor, making you spent a few seconds trying to finagle around them every time you wanna pass these sections. Similarly, there is an area with sliding doors, or "clanky doors", they have a big annoying hitbox that - while fitting it's graphic perfectly - are infuriating to get past without getting hits for 1-2 frames. And in said corridor with these sliding doors, there are 2 lamps that make it extremely hard to reach the side of the shifting door that is safe the longest, so if you wanna pass through you need to find just the right finicky position, and then you have a really small time frame to roll through. And there are 4 of these doors. Also, moving between wagons can be finicky too because the roofs are so low, so half the time you hit your head and die unless you jump just right.
Here is the thing, if all that existed just by itself I probably would not care much, just move a bit slower, take your time and do it right. But here comes the kicker. This entire section described by me, is part of a timed run. A tight one. So tight I had to take a break to buy lube. I spent over an hour on that section in which I perfected a way through the sliding doors and sprinting through the corridor blocked by custom objects and doors, to reach the point from where I could jump into the room with the still open door, but the place from where you jump has a TR4-style fixed camera that shows Lara from a diagonally flipped position, making the jump even harder for no reason. This timed run is extremely infuriating and the timer easily could have been increased by 70% and still be a challenge.
Another element that went kinda hit or miss, is the limit ammunition of the guns. I know I specifically wished for more levels with completely limited ammo, but the structure of the level does not make it obvious whether you move forward or backwards first, and if you go backwards first you will likely run out of ammo, but then find gates that need to be shot to open. So on my first attempt I actually got softlocked. Meanwhile at the end you suddenly get two powerful weapons at the same time and suddenly the ammo issue is completely gone. Kinda strange. The enemy encounters, especially the ambushes are also really brutal. Huge squads of enemies will ambush you in really tight situations. But the challenge can be delightful.
To end this, let me say that while not everything attempted here hit the mark perfectly, I feel like this level more than a lot of other ones actually attempted to make a good action level, that explored challenging encounters and ammo management better than everything else I have played so far. It's an experiment in trying to develop these elements nicely, , and again, while not all of it hits the mark perfectly, the attempt is none the less highly commendable, and I can't wait Uzi Master will build next!
The Snarky Lesbian